I remember Cinnabons and I remember love

“When all is said and done I’d never count the cost. It’s worth all that’s lost. Just to see you smile”

Just to See You Smile performed by Tim McGraw

Every time I hear that song I cry. Not because of what he’s actually singing about but because of how this simple line in the song reminds me of you and Alec and a few of the simple things that brought you both such joy and how I would give anything just to see you smile like that again.

I can’t find a picture of us ever eating a cinnabon but I know we did. Hundreds of times. They sold them at the mall. The one in Gaithersburg. Lakeforest Mall which no longer exists. Funny how things change so much that you cry because it’s really not funny at all. The Cinnabon was downstairs near Sears or JC Penney. That part I can’t remember exactly but I remember the times we had there. Neither one of you would ever have known this because I would never have told you but we really couldn’t afford those Cinnabons yet your delight eating them was so simple and genuine that if it meant that I had to work an extra hour a day just to see you smile from eating a Cinnabon I would have worked as long as it took to earn that extra money for those Cinnabons on the regular. Just to see those beautiful smiles.

When you were little you’d both just ask for them not thinking one little bit about it and I would get us 3. One for each of us and we’d sit and eat right there at the mall. You and Alec would have just been done running around that play area in the center of the mall. You’d be almost sweaty. Grinning and ready to go on to the next adventure. But first: Cinnabon. But you, Andrew, loved them more than either Alec or me and as a teenager you understood that it wasn’t that easy to just “get something” and your eyes would always wander towards any place that sold Cinnabons. At the airport on our travels, sometimes gas stations as we drove down 95 to Florida, random places we’d find ourselves in or if we ever went to a mall anywhere you’d see them and you’d be shy about it but I knew. I’d get you your Cinnabon and you’d smile that smile and say “Oh mama. You’re the mama” and you’d pat my head the way you always did. I just wish that I could stay there in those times. Forever. Just to see you smile.

Your little 5 year old smile, Andrew. I can’t believe how clearly I can see your 5 year old face. Your hair was soft and wavy. Your little teeth were perfect and your smile was like a flash of beautiful little white miniature chiclets. Your big brown eyes full of sparkle, spirit, mischievous adventure, a little sadness and a lot of kindness. Those eyes never changed. I can see you clear as if you were right here with me this very second. Fork in hand eating that Cinnabon. Smiling and smelling of that sweet Cinnamon and frosting mixed in with that dewey boy sweat. Delighted with the world.

Maybe I always knew this was a fleeting moment and I’m glad I “wasted” all that money on those Cinnabons. Best money I ever spent. I’d do it all over again. Just to see you smile.

“I can’t forget the way you looked at me. Just to see you smile. I’d do anything…”

….Just to see you smile

…The Piano Man

“It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?”


~ Billy Joel

There are no coincidences. Ever.

How did Nate, a guy who I had never previously met and had only known Andrew for a short while before he died, know that the Piano Man was the perfect song for the video he made for Andrew’s celebration of life? He didn’t. He didn’t know how that song was interwoven into the fabric of my life since high school and how I had told my boys about the way it changed my life because my 11th grade english teacher used it in our class to teach us about similies, hyperboles and metaphors but what I got out of it was that life can be interpreted beautifully through lyrics and music. Nate knew nothing of this. He felt it. Because the universe leaves nothing up to a mere coincidence. Not one single damn thing. Not birth. Not death. Not a second of the journey in between.

I’ll admit it. At first when I heard the song choice Nate had made for Andrew’s video I was upset. Mad upset. Not sad upset. Why The Piano Man, Nate?! I put the thought away. I couldn’t handle the reality of it just yet. I spent the next year and a half avoiding the thought, emotions, message, everything…and every time I heard it come on the radio…switch. Immediately. Nope. Not yet. I’ll let you know when I’m ready.

I’m ready.

Here’s the deal. It took me a year and a half from the day Andrew died to admit that, yes, yup…Andrew was the Piano Man. It’s true.

I miss you, Andrew. The day you were born my hospital room filled up with people. All your aunts and uncles, cousins, your grandparents, great-grandmother, my friends and it seems as though you were the talk of the floor because random nurses would come in to “see this baby we keep hearing about!”.

Looking back, that was your spirit. You attracted and welcomed everyone into your life regardless of anything that others may have perceived as “unsavory” or “negative”. It was incredible and I’m sure frustrating to your brother, Alec. Don’t get me wrong, Alec is an introvert by nature so it’s not the attention you got that frustrated him. He was frustrated by your nonstop talking and activity level! But Alec couldn’t be without you and he really did become the voice to so much of your joking around that you two became quite the pair. You got Andrew AND Alec. Always. It worked out beautifully. What a pair. What a blast.

As you got older and the two of you went separate ways for your studies I saw it even clearer. You would come home from any class you took or job you had and you would tell me stories of the people you met or have become friends with. You never judged. You were truthful but without judgement. You always found a way to see the good in others. It was you they were coming to see. It was you.

Did I ever tell you about “foreshadowing”? I learned about that in college in a film class. I probably did tell you. Foreshadowing is a technique used in movies where the director gives you a clue in the beginning, or a chapter, of the film as to what will happen but it’s not meant to be understood. It’s meant to create an expectation and in the end, as you look back on the movie, you will be able to say “oh yeah! I get it”.

Foreshadowing is not just a thing used in films. It’s everywhere and the universe always prepares us for the ending. We just don’t know it until later.

I heard the Piano Man in 11th grade. That song touched me in ways I’ve never been able to express to anyone properly. It told me everything about you. I just didn’t know it was going to be you. Oh Andrew…it was you.

“Son, can you play me a memory
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes”

I found Nate’s number the other day and finally asked him why he chose the Piano Man. This was part of his response:

“When I listen to it –the piano man is this guy who is helping to bring some joy and happiness around to other people” he went on to say, “When I met Andrew even though it was only for a little bit he was super friendly and I kind of just got the feeling that he was someone who touched a lot of lives”

He did. He still does. I still get messages from his friends telling me how thinking about what Andrew would have said or let them talk about with him has helped them going through something difficult at the moment…and it’s him who they’re coming to see….still. And he’s there for them. As usual.

“Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright”

I won’t change the station anymore when that song comes on. I’ll cry and let the emotions carry me towards you. My first baby. (My second mama)

Sing us a song you’re the piano man….

The Visit by Wileyna

We lived on Alderleaf Dr in a little neighborhood that was magical.

There weren’t that many families there with kids when we first moved in around 1994 but neighborhoods turn over and by the time both my boys were born we started to see that other families were also having kids. Needless to say, by the time Andrew and Alec were 5 and 3 they had a seemingly endless stream of built in playmates for their daily adventures. Our neighbors across the street, Steve and Nancy who became dear friends, ended up having 3 kids who added so much laughter and screaming to our little magical neighborhood. Their oldest son, John, was Andrew’s best friend and partner in Neighborhood Defense. They were a riot. Protectors and destroyers simultaneously. My fondest memories come from those days when John, Alec and Andrew would dress up in their “war gear” and save the world as they destroyed our yards. Best days ever.

John and Andrew Cub Scout Days.

Time kept moving in our little magical neighborhood and, of course, things changed. Good friends moved away, kids grew up and our little dream world of magical days became a most wonderful memory. A memory, to me, that keeps me alive and brings bittersweet joy to my heart.

My dear friend, Nancy, who was witness and participant in our magical neighborhood wrote this the other day. She had a dream and in it Andrew came to visit. Warms my heart. Heals me. Please take a minute to read: https://nancywileywriter.com/2020/03/13/the-visit/

I have a Facebook page called “The Little Gigantic Things”. Nancy’s visit from Andrew is exactly that: a little gigantic thing. It’s these little gigantic things that touch us to our core. They are the little things that become the fabric of your being and these are the things that heal you.

Dreams are awesome. Also: they suck

“Like a heartbeat…Drives you mad.
In the stillness of remembering what you had.
And what you lost.
And what you had.
And what you lost…”

~ Dreams by Stevie Nicks

Andrew was with me all night long in my dreams. I can’t remember specifics but I’m all confused again this morning. Woke up scared with the same knot in my throat and tears ready to roll. Why did you have to go? I just can’t understand it and I know I never will. How can there be a “God who loves you so much” yet takes not only your mother when you are 3 and you grow up scared and grieving but then later after you have learned to live with that grief and let your guard down a little bit and love again…and I mean actually love again…this “loving God” takes away your first born child too? I’m 52 years old. I do not believe in a “God who loves you so much…”

Here’s the kicker for me. “Oh you’ll get to see your baby in dreams. But you won’t be able to remember them. You’ll just feel like they were with you all night and there are snippets of the dream you’ll remember but you will just wake up and realize that he’s gone. It was just a dream and you can’t even remember the details”. That’s how much God loves you. No. That makes no sense. I want him back and I don’t want it to be in a dream that I can’t remember.

But that’s never going to happen so I take my dream, my memories and my shattered heart and I carry that life with me here on this floating rock in the middle (or end or beginning) of the universe and I smile through my tears after the screaming stops. I smile because for 22 years he was with me. I carried him. I nursed him. I read to him. We sang together. We talked. We held hands. We hugged. We cried. We learned. We welcomed his brother together. We fought. We disappointed each other. We forgave. We loved. We love. We will always have that because we lived. And all of that, plus so much more, is real.

Andrew came to visit me in my dreams last night and I can’t remember what happened but I don’t need to remember the dream to know that I love that kid and his presence in my life for 22 years is a gift beyond price. I thank the Universe for letting me be a part of that magnificent soul’s life here on earth.

What a happy day.

Oh, Andrew. You’re my first baby. (Oh mama. You’re my second mama) He really did say that every time. I wonder.

The Palmetto Bug

I have no idea why I often wake up thinking about the time we took Andrew and Alec to the Keys for the first time. Andrew was 4 and Alec was 2. We drove. From Maryland. This was about 7 years before the divorce but things were already going sour. The place we stayed in was a small little efficiency in a community with a fishing dock. Their dad only wanted to fish. At night. *my eyebrows are raised again*

I, of course, was taking care of the boys while their dad was fishing. I always took care of the boys while their dad was fishing or hunting or working or drunk and passed out. I was a single parent who happened to be married. Whatever. I figured it out.

The boys finally fell asleep and I’m just sitting there thinking about stuff when the largest “palmetto bug” *nice way to say cockroach* walked up the wall behind our bed. I’ll never forget thinking “what the actual fuck do I do now? and why do I have to do this shit alone yet again when I technically have a husband”. That was a regular thought in my life. Of course, I took care of it and fell asleep in the bed my boys were sharing.

Andrew and Alec loved that trip to the Keys. They had a blast and it was the beginning of our yearly Florida trips which eventually became “our future home”.

I am not sure what the palmetto bug has to do with anything. I just always remember that night and I remember my frustration was second to my excitement at how my boys soaked up their Florida surroundings. The anoles, the coral, shells, water, fish…

Andrew grew up and went off to college to study Biology and I truly believe it all stemmed from that first trip to the Keys. I miss his sense of wonder.